Counting their blessings in Los Banos for Connecticut victims

Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comJanuary 10, 2013 

In Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

Fifteen pastors, from nearly as many local churches, asked scores of children and their parents to get closer to God during a blessing ceremony Sunday.

About 300 people gathered in the multipurpose room of Los Banos High School to give praise to the lord in the wake of the shooting deaths of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

The two-hour event took on a respectfully reserved atmosphere.

The Rev. John Calderon of Day 3 Church was shaken emotionally, as were many across the country, after learning of the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown that also claimed the lives of six adults. Calderon came up with the blessing while talking to some associate pastors.

"We were discussing what it would look like for the body of Christ to be in Los Banos completely unified," Calderon said. "To be quite honest, the doctrine would not be the issue, but rather the spirit of God, the son of God, the heavenly father would be the focus."

Calderon and his fellow pastors gave scripture readings in English and Spanish and led attendees in prayer.

The Rev. Dean Nelson of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church said it is necessary for Los Banosans to keep God in their lives.

"Whenever we forsake God, we're inviting destruction upon our community," Nelson said.

The Rev. Bruce Rivers of Greater Exodus Baptist Church compared his prayer to going through the educational system.

"We're in school right now," he said. "The only way you can get out of school is to write back to the teacher what you learned. So why don't we pray back to God what he wrote so we can really get a blessin' up in here."

The blessing ceremony included a performance by Calderon's son, Jason Michael Calderon and Vanessa Lovato. The younger Calderon heads a Christian band bearing his name.

As pastors lined up to bless children they quickly found themselves blessing parents and anyone else accompanying the youngsters.

Unity was on the minds of many who attended.

"We came for the community involvement, not only being able to expose them to more but get them involved in community projects," Erik Knorr said of bringing his two daughters to the ceremony.

Susan Fournier said she wanted her son to see there is good in Los Banos.

"I wanted to bring my kid to just pray. There's been a lot of bad things that go on in the best of neighborhoods," she said.

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